Creative process with Anna Bu Kliewer
A cut above
In July 2019, Anna created a series of pieces in collaboration with photographic duo The Bardos for Vogue Portugal. She weaved her own floral additions into a set of photos originally taken for an editorial article on ‘the most connected generation ever’.
‘I had just cut plants and flowers and I thought they could be the perfect complement to the female forms.’ Anna told the magazine at the time.
It seemed like the collaboration provided a real insight into Anna’s working methods. We decided it also offered a perfect opportunity to talk to Anna to find out how she came to develop her unique style and how she goes about creating her work.
When did you first discover your own artistic ability?
I’ve always enjoyed making art in any form. My parents were also very supportive – my mum got me my first oil paints when I was 10 years old. They didn’t think it through though. There were paint marks everywhere. Creating has been with me almost my whole life.
Did you immediately know this was what you wanted to do professionally?
I actually did one semester of Fashion Design, then Psychology. I also modelled for a few years, which paid for my Fine Art degree. I knew I wanted to do something creative, but even when I started studying Fine Art I thought I would mostly work with video or painting.
How did you become a professional artist?
One often slips into it. People began to ask to buy drawings and collages, so I continued making them and being part of exhibitions. In 2015 I joined Breed, which maybe made it official?
How did you discover your own individual style?
It happened gradually. Collage was introduced to me by my art teacher in grade 12 and has stuck with me since. I love plants and flowers, they show up in my work a lot.
Who were your biggest visual influences?
I enjoy going to exhibitions and seeing other artist’s work online. It does confuse at times if I am in my creative process, as it is quite playful and unrestricted. Looking at art can restrict sometimes, but photography I always find inspiring. Shirley Baker, Alex Prager, Guy Bourdin, Sanlé Sory, Malick Sidibé, Stephen Shore are some of my favourites.
What’s your usual creative process for working on a new piece?
I start sourcing through books and magazines and intuitively choose what to work with. I have about 20,000 cut-out small pieces which are sorted by colour or theme. Tonal unity is very important to me, so that influences the end result when I create pieces. It is very playful and intuitive – I don’t start with a sketch or plan.
Do you usually have a story in mind for each image you create, or does one appear during the process of creation?
The story evolves while making new collages. When I do a series it sometimes begins with one or two images that work well together and then I look for more suitable images. My favourite part is when an image makes me giggle and has some humour to it. The giggle indicates that the piece is finished.
In the work for Vogue Portugal, you were working with existing photographs, but where do you usually find the images that make up your pieces?
Everywhere really, vintage books, new and old magazines. I love walking (which currently keeps me sane in lockdown) so I usually go to charity shops. I love them as you never know what you’ll find! Like a cat photography book with creepy poems next to them…
Do you ever use digital tools or is everything you do completely hand-crafted?
I always start analogue. I love holding the book or magazine and ripping the pages out, as well as using my scissors and cutting knife. Later on, I scan them in and at times tweak colours or shapes in Photoshop. I like mixing the two.
Do you have a studio, or are you happy to work wherever you find yourself?
I have a studio at home. Sharing a studio can be difficult as paper is quite fragile. Maybe I also just enjoy working in my pyjamas from time to time…
Are there other forms of expression, like sculpture or film, for example, that you’d like to work with in future?
I would love to make big collage installations! I have always enjoyed making video collages, so that will continue in future projects.